CNN Wire Staff
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama brought the long political struggle over the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy to a close Wednesday, signing legislation that will bring an end of the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the armed forces.
The president signed the bill repealing the 17-year ban in front an jubilant crowd of supporters at the Department of Interior. Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, were among those in attendance.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen was also present for the occasion.
The repeal "will strengthen our national security and uphold (America's) ideals," Obama said. "No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie."
"I believe this is the right thing to do for our military," he added. "It's the right thing to do, period."
This is a moment "more than two centuries in the making," the president said. Over the course of U.S. history, "gay Americans fought just as hard (and) gave just as much to protect" the country as anyone else. "We are a nation that believes all men and women are created equal."
Passage of the repeal was a major political victory for Obama and congressional Democrats. Obama promised to repeal the ban during the 2008 presidential election.
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